A federal jury Friday found three Las Vegas men guilty of conspiracy charges based on a lengthy sting operation.
Agents from the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went undercover at a Las Vegas tattoo parlor, masquerading as hard-core criminals and purchasing weapons and drugs for more than a year.
Defense attorneys tried to have the case tossed out, claiming ATF agents acted “outrageously” — smoking marijuana and snorting methamphetamine — and entrapped defendants.
U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan denied the claim. Mahan found that the defendants were already involved in a continuing series of similar crimes and that the agents’ participation was not necessary for the defendants to commit the crime.
After a two-week trial, Christopher Sangalang, 35; Alfredo Flores, 24; and Deandre Patton, 33, were convicted of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden. They face prison terms ranging from 15 years to life and fines of up to $4 million.
Other gang members already have been convicted and sentenced as the result of the sting.
In 2007, ATF agents set up the tattoo parlor sting and hired Sangalang and Flores as tattoo artists. The agents said they needed a crew to rob a heavily guarded drug house, which never existed. Sangalang and Flores said they had crews who could pull off the robbery and helped plan it, according to testimony.
The phony robbery was set for May 15, 2008. The three defendants and their “crews” were arrested at a staging area.